My earliest research focused on women’s religious identities in the Mustang district of central-western Nepal. In the late 1990s, I began working with members of the Thangmi community in Dolakha and Sindhupalchok districts in central-eastern Nepal, later expanding that work to India’s state of Sikkim and Darjeeling district of West Bengal. This long-term, ongoing ethnographic engagement came to fruition in my 2015 book, Rituals of Ethnicity: Thangmi Identities Between Nepal and India, as well as in several articles and book chapters that may be found on my publications page.
Nepal’s Maoist insurgency gained force while I was conducting research with the Thangmi. By chance, I had the opportunity to observe their expansion into eastern areas of Nepal, like Dolakha and Sindhupalchok districts, from a village-based vantage point. This experience resulted in several publications that considered motivations for joining the Maoist movement, broader social experiences of it from an ethnographic perspective, and its long-term prospects for social transformation.
In 2012, I completed work on a British Academy funded UK-South Asia partnership project entitled “Inequality and Affirmative Action in South Asia: Current Experiences and Future Agendas in India and Nepal”. This resulted in a major conference in Kathmandu in July 2012, which I co-convened in collaboration with the Tribhuvan University Central Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Social Science Baha, a radio series broadcast in Nepal (titled Disentangling ‘Ethnic Federalism’ and Affirmative Action’) and a co-edited (with Alpa Shah) theme issue of Focaal—Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, “Toward an Anthropology of Affirmative Action” which focuses on South Asia.